David Gillick believes track and field medal drought could continue in Paris

Former Olympian reckons Los Angeles Games in 2028 a more realistic vision

David Gillick at the launch of  European Week of Sport  in partnership with Sport Ireland. Photograph: Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile

David Gillick at the launch of European Week of Sport in partnership with Sport Ireland. Photograph: Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile

 

Gold medals, garlands and success, in the water and between the ropes, will go down as Ireland’s tale from Tokyo but there was a ‘reality check’ for those involved in track and field disciplines too.

That’s the view of former European indoor champion David Gillick who has urged our young athletes to view success as a long-term project, potentially with the Los Angeles 2028 games in mind.

While Team Ireland returned from Japan with four medals, including two golds, all of them came in boxing and rowing, while track and field athletes struck out.

Gillick isn’t optimistic in that regard about Paris 2024 either, though he feels that many athletes have time on their side to look years down the road.

Speaking at the launch of the European Week of Sport, which runs from September 23rd-30th, ex-400m runner Gillick suggested ‘we might have a different conversation’ regarding medals at the LA Games in ’28 if all the correct boxes are ticked between now and then.

“We do have a lot of talent in the country, all you have to do is look at the medals we won at juniors and under-20s,” said Gillick. “There’s something there, there’s definitely something happening which is great. So how do we get up to the next level? Because that’s our Paris ’24, that’s our LA ’28 and our Brisbane, the next three Olympics. How do we make sure that we have a robust system that enables the athletes and the coaches to develop as well?”

Gillick reckons even greater support for athletes and coaches would help, though he said there’ll be no quick fixes.

Asked if track or field medals in three years in Paris are likely, he shook his head.

“Medals? No. I don’t think we’re talking medals,” said the Dubliner. “That’s not being negative or defeatist, it’s just a reality of where we’re at. Probably the majority of athletes that did qualify for Tokyo, they qualified on quota places, so they’re not hitting the individual qualification standards.

“If you’re not hitting that, the realistic shot of getting a medal is very low. In terms of medals, we’re probably a little bit off that right now. What I would be looking for is athletes to go to Paris and to perform, be it PBs, season bests, national records and hopefully make a final.

“It’s great that we had a bit of youth in Tokyo because that does suggest if we blood them now, we get them to Paris and hopefully maybe come LA, we might have a conversation that could be a lot different around medals.”

Gillick reckons a greater emphasis on technical, field events could yield potential medals in the future too.

“The technical events are something we could really focus on,” he said. “The Swedes did it back in the ’90s and the noughties, they really targeted the more technical events as opposed to say the endurance- or the speed-based events where you’re always up against the Africans and the Caribbean and American athletes so a more technical approach could be something to look at.”

Gillick himself competed at Beijing 2008, underperformed and took it hard, admitting he knows how many of those who returned empty-handed from Tokyo are feeling.

“The reality of it is, you do kind of feel embarrassed,” he said of his experience. “I felt the world was watching me in a way. You feel that everyone’s eyes are on you to perform and then you don’t perform. You just want a big hole to open up and swallow you. It was a difficult transition when I came back.

“For me it was about talking to all the people around me. I actually managed to turn 2009 into my best year off the back of it.”

Information on European Week of Sport can be found on www.sportireland.ie/europeanweekofsport

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